Not many teams in NBA history can say that they have a 6-time All-Star who is currently the second or sometimes third man off their bench. The Knicks are currently blessed with the ability to start Carmelo Anthony at the power forward position, only to have a BETTER power forward come in off the bench and move Melo back to his natural small forward position. This man we speak of is Amar’e Stoudemire and Amar’e, please note, New York Knicks fans still love you, and will be forever grateful for you choosing to sign here and turning this franchise around.
Since Stat returned to us on January 1st against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Knicks are just 6-6, but let’s not forget that Amar’e returned to the Knicks just 7 days after we lost our starting point guard, Raymond Felton for a month with the pinkie issue. Amar’e has been nothing short of great and has really thrived in this “bench role.” Averaging just 22 minutes per contest, Stat is shooting 52% from the field and adding 12 points per game and 4 rebounds to a second unit that due to injuries has no size. In seven of the ten games, Stoudemire has reached double figures in points, including 6 straight and 5 straight 15+ point nights.
Amar’e is also getting to the free throw line at a solid rate attempting 4 free throws per game, including 12 attempts (11 made) against the Detroit Pistons during the Knicks trip to London, England. His Per 48 Points Per Game (25.5) is actually 7th amongst all NBA PF’s and no PF is getting to the line as frequently as he (11.9 attempts Per 48). I have no doubt in my mind that Amar’e will eventually shift back to the starting lineup, but for now he is the captain of the role players.
When everyone is healthy, the Knicks depth is their strength. A starting lineup of Felton, Kidd, Melo, Stat, and Chandler is as good a starting lineup there is in the NBA. When you can sit all 5 starters and your bench consists of Shump, Smith, Novak, Copeland/White/Brewer, and Wallace/Thomas/Camby, you can breathe easy. It’s up to Amar’e to let the coach know where he feels most comfortable and if he feels he can take advantage of other teams second units, than I suggest he continue to come off the bench. It allows for Melo to continue his hot first quarters; being able to beat the over-sized forwards attempting to guard him.
However, if Amar’e wants to earn back the respect he deserves from the rest of the league, I have no doubt he will make it known he wants to return to the starting lineup. Either way, the Knicks are in great shape going forward and with good health should finally make it out of the first round of the playoffs this post season. 9 of the Knicks next 14 games will be played at home, so fatigue shouldn’t be a problem. If Amar’e can keep up the solid play and Raymond Felton returns to the same style of play before the injury, the Knicks could easily separate themselves from the rest of the pack in the Eastern Conference.
Keith Lott @wetlkfntsysprts – Knickswag Contributor
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